Tuesday, December 5, 2017

The Loot Box Controversy

We can not go two seconds in this world without some sort of debacle happening.  Either our world leaders are acting like children or worse and we are looking down both barrels in the media about really anything.  Wait!  I have games to fall back on.  Surely the industry will not let me down.  I am most assured that the latest entertainment in this field will take away my worries!  NOPE!  Here we are, left standing with shit in both hands and nothing else to do with it except through it around.

We are standing in the wake of one of the latest fiasco's in the video game industry.  I am talking about loot boxes.  If you are not familiar with this scam masquerading as just harmless micro-transactions, let me help educate you.  Micro-transactions were just the beginning and still exist today.  These are typically smaller transactions for individual items.  Sometimes these items are purely cosmetic and sometimes they give players a gained advantage in whatever game they are purchasing for.  The only real difference with a loot box is that you have a chance at multiple items, but you still pay real-world currency for them.  You are really only guaranteed a chance at certain types of items with these.

So how do these items hurt us?  Well, it is incentive for what is quite simply gambling.  Now, if you're an adult making the decision to spend your money on a game of chance, then you are legally within your rights to do so.  What makes the waters muddy is that teens and children have access to this as well.  It is more harmful to teens than anything.  Teens can get a job, gain access to some sort of card technology, and spend that money without having to get parental permission.  It is illegal in all states for anyone under the age of 18 to gamble.  End of discussion.  Through loot crates though, the argument is being made that the video game industry has found away to disguise it as nothing more than items that help expand a players experience. 

Does it though?  Most of the time, these items are cosmetic and do not do anything to expand the way players experience the world they play in.  Many mobile games have a pay-to-win model.  This is where players pay for gained advantages.  This can range from better weapons to quicker acquisition of resources.  It gives those that have the money and advantage over all other players that do not or simply do not want to play that way.

I have never been a fan of the micro-transaction/loot box model of business.  It is a business decision for a company to leech more money out of players, plain and simple.  I have always believed that a full experience should be provided from the beginning and if a company would like to expand the game further, create expansions.  This is something we already see in DLC packs.  Gamers are speaking out against this new move in the industry.  Many of us are upset with it and believe it to be creating an imbalance.  The problem is that there will always be enough players to invest in these sorts of scams.

So what can we do to combat it?  It is hard to say, right now, how it would be best to do so.  Congress is looking at it, but lawmakers are more concerned with bigger issues.  The most we can do as a community is to let our voices be heard by the companies.  The best way to do that is by not giving them your hard earned cash.  Companies like Activision, EA, and Ubisoft are all about the bottom line at the end of the day.  They always want to be in the black, but we have the power to make that number small or put them in the red.  We have to make the industry realize that consumers hold the power.  It isn't like we aren't willing to go retro or pick up indie titles.  Most of the time, this is much more rewarding anyways.

This is my unorganized two cents on the matter.  I do not like it.  Have never liked it and will continue not to.  This will not change and I will continue saving my hard earned dollars for projects that deserve it.  Thanks for reading and let me know what you think! 

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Assassin's Creed: Origins Review

If you are not familiar with the Assassin's Creed franchise, you have missed a lot of content.  I will not get into the details of the story, but a brief summary should be able to kick start us to this game.  The franchise started with a world in which the player can discover people and places of the past through DNA memories.  These memories are accessed through "The Animus", a machine that allows a user to see the memories of their ancestors and explore the world they lived in through those memories.  The series has taken us on a roller-coaster ride through multiple time periods and geographical locations.  Starting in the Middle-East, going to Italy, America, The Caribbean, China, India, Russia, England, and now to Egypt.  Over the span of 10 years, players have been to so many places and seen so many things, but sadly the franchise took a dip with stagnation in gameplay as well as its story.

In Assassin's Creed: Origins (AC Origins), we get a fresh coat of paint and a completely re-work/re-design of how players not only travel this new world, but also how they interact and engage in combat.  While playing AC Origins you play as Bayek, a Medjay that still stays true to his duty of helping and protecting the people even though the Ptolemy family has disbanded them.  After suffering a great personal loss, Bayek goes on a journey of revenge to kill all of those that had a hand in his hurt.  The story building in AC Origins does a great job of immediately engaging the player to want to know more about Bayek.  The character is multi-layered and not as one dimensional as some of the previous protagonists of the series.  While he is motivated by revenge, it never stops him from acting too brashly and he maintains the honor of his position in helping people over getting his revenge.

The game world is vast and beautifully sculpted.  It feels alive with vendors and people walking through the streets.  The ability to listen to conversations while walking around, hear the laughter of children while the play in the streets, and see all of them reacting to each other creates a brilliant immersive environment.  While wandering in the wild, players can take the opportunity to admire wildlife from afar or engage in hunting them for materials.  Predators will attack prey, including Bayek, and non-predators will run away.  The only thing missing is fishing, but the ability to swim and engage with the underwater environment is still breathtaking.  Draw distance's look clear and made me want to explore the world more than just play quests.  I found myself just traveling the desert for miles appreciating the details put into it by the development team.

I was initially unsure of the combat changes and afraid that they would change the dynamic of fighting in a negative or unenthusiastic way.  Players of the franchise had become very accustomed to playing with the hit box animation that the series used.  The more free-flowing system does not let the player down at all.  If anything, it makes a fight feel more real.  You do get parry abilities or you can spend your time dodging the enemies attacks to open up for an attack to their flank.  Assassinations work just the same as they always have, but with the RPG elements of the game you may not always succeed in an immediate take-down.  Also, with a multitude of weapons at your disposal, there is a variety of combat tactics you can approach a situation with.

The stealth mechanics are much more realistic in the sense of motion that can be picked up by NPC enemies.  If you move slowly in the bushes, they are less likely to notice you, but if you try to move quickly, they will notice that the shrubs are shuffling an awful lot.  Climbing works beautifully with the stealth action of the game as you can climb most surfaces as long as there is something to grab onto.  Players can also take utilization of a variety of bows that work both for stealth, quite well, or for more actionable combat.  Each type of bow acts similarly to guns that a player may have come across in most first-person shooters.  There is a light bow that acts as a quick multi-shot weapon, a war bow that works in a similar fashion to a shot-gun, the predator bow for all of you sniping needs, and the hunter bow which is a mid-grade bow somewhere between the light bow speed and the predator bow range.

One problem the franchise has suffered from is replay value.  The side quests have been there, but it never felt like there was enough of them.  The quests never felt unique or engaging either.  It was simply assassination contracts, fetch quests, races, etc.  The problem was that there was not much of a story involved in any of them so players would hit a point of feeling disengaged from them.  It was easier to skip the text description and just get your experience/money.  The main story of the game is roughly 25-30+ hours.  This is average for most action games today, but you can easily sink another 40-50+ hours into completing side quests, hunting animals, upgrading your gear, getting your skills maxed out, taking photos, etc.  There is a tremendous amount to do in the game and it almost feels overwhelming.  Almost, but once players start filtering what they want out of all this game has to offer, it becomes very easy to get lost in the desert sands because of the mirages.

The main story of this game is engaging and feels real.  You empathize with Bayek and he doesn't feel like the young, brash, quick to anger characters we've gotten from many of the games in the franchise.  He feels like a man with a purpose and as you travel through the story with him, you feel his pain.  You begin to understand his motivation.  I ended up in one quest that actually made me angry.  It didn't make me angry because of a problem in it.  It gave me the same anger the character was feeling due to the events that unfolded.  It has been a long time since players could engage with a character this way and it is a welcome feeling.

Now, I am aware that much of this review is singing the praises of this game.  This is not to say that the game is not without problems.  AC Origins does have some glitched issues that the developers are working on fixing while also releasing more content.  As of the time of this writing, there is a known issue with a trophy/achievement because of an item issue from later in the game.  There are some small bugs that cause animals to spawn oddly, but there hasn't been any issue that was game breaking.  I found myself missing elements of previous installments of the franchise, but I believe that is only because of my comfort with those elements.  I am positive that if players push through the differences, they will find that this is still an Assassin's Creed game like any other, but with many improvements that outweigh the old style.

All-in-all, I give this game a 9.5/10.  The reason I can't bring myself to give it a 10 is simply because of the small glitch issues and the major one that is causing some players to not get full trophy/achievement completion.  When you invest 70+ hours into a game this is a frustration point that does deteriorate the experience.  Get this game!  You owe it to yourself if you're a long-time fan, someone that stepped away after Ezio, or wanting a new gaming experience.  I promise you won't be disappointed.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Podcast Episode 3: Ghost In The Shell

Continuing the trend of some older material I have, the new podcast is out! This week, witness the discussion about one of the most controversial movies this year! Ghost In The Shell! Roman, Chris, and Daniel talk about the movie primarily from a cinema viewpoint. Give me a like and comment on whether you like the episode!


Thursday, November 2, 2017

Podcast Episode 2: Ghost Recon Wildlands

Roman, Dan, and Carlos talk about Ghost Recon Wildlands!  We talk about what we liked about the open world, the responsiveness of weapons, vehicles tracking like cardboard boxes, etc.  Listen in and comment on your feelings!  Did you like it?  Hate it?  Give all of the feedback! 


P.S. I'm sorry that this is a bit dated, but fresh content will come soon!

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Podcast Episode 1: The Lego Batman Movie

 Lego Batman Podcast

Roman and NerdNonsense get down with The Dark Knight and discuss what we liked/didn't like about the movie.  What's not to like right?  Be the hero we need, listen, and comment!  Click the pic to listen!

Monday, May 8, 2017

Things Are Coming Soon!

Hello!  If this is your first time coming to my blog, I welcome you with open arms.  You probably look at the blankness of this page and wonder, "What is it this person has to offer?"  Well, it's many things that I will try to offer.  I offer my honest opinions on all things nerd.  Video games, movies, comics, tabletop, etc.  I'm not an expert in all things nerd, but I'm working at being informed about all of the things that are out there.  I'm committed to bringing accurate information and entertainment to your lives.  I will not only be writing things, but also sharing podcasts that I record with friends/guests.

My hope is to expand your horizons into viewpoints you might not otherwise hear.  I want to speak with people from different walks of life about nerd/geek life and what it means to them.  I want to engage a community full of those people and create a space where we all get to come together to share this little something of ourselves that we all have in common.

I promise that this will always be a safe space for everyone with open minds and open hearts.  I encourage feedback (please be constructive), but I know that I will not tolerate threats or disparaging treatment of others.  This is absolute.

I hope that we can share some drinks across the internet's.  Let's have some laughs, maybe some tears (I hope not too many), but most of all I want you to enjoy this space as much as I plan too.  Stick with me, I'm going to get some podcasts up soon and will start writing again.  Sometimes, getting those creative juices flowing can be a challenge when real-life is getting in the way of all my fun.  Thank you for being awesome and checking out my page!